Army not involved in 1971 rapes
By Khalid Hasan
Washington: An academic’s investigation of conflict sites in the East Pakistan in 1971 did not come across any cases of rape of women by the Pakistan Army.
According to Professor Sarmila Bose of the George Washington University, “In all of the incidents involving the Pakistan Army in the case-studies, the armed forces were found not to have raped women. While this cannot be extrapolated beyond the specific incidents in this study, it is significant, as in many cases the allegation of rape was made along with allegations of killing in prior verbal discussions or in some cases even in written form in Bengali literature. However, when Bengali eye-witnesses, participants and survivors of the incidents were interviewed they testified to the violence and killings, but also testified that no rape had taken place.” Prof Bose was addressing a conference on the 1971 conflict arranged by the State Department to mark the release of declassified documents from that period.
Prof Bose said there has been no systematic study of the 1971 conflict which, in turn, hinders “a true understanding of a cataclysmic restructuring in modern South Asian history.”
Bengalis appear to be determined more by fewer opportunities rather than a principled stand, both sides are equal in terms of the nature of the crime. Equally, acts of humanity in the midst of a bitter conflict are found on all sides.”
She said, “The civil war of 1971 was fought between those who believed they were fighting for a united Pakistan and those who believed their chance for justice and progress lay in an independent Bangladesh. Both were legitimate political positions. All parties in this conflict embraced violence as a means to the end, all committed acts of brutality outside accepted norms of warfare, and all had their share of humanity. These attributes make the 1971 conflict particularly suitable for efforts towards reconciliation, rather than recrimination.”
She said the civil war was not merely between the two wings of Pakistan, but also within the territory of East Pakistan, between Bengalis and non-Bengalis, and among Bengalis themselves, who were bitterly divided between those who favoured independence for Bangladesh and those who supported the unity and integrity of Pakistan. She collected her data over the last three years through visits to Pakistan and Bangladesh. She visited sites of violence in the latter and interview witnesses and participants in those events.
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